If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.~ Virginia Woolf
In his younger years, Okoro was your normal guy man. Smart, suave and sophisticated. He found his way to Europe after graduating from the University and joined friends who made money the usual way: thru deals! He enjoyed the fast lane and soon married an upscale lady.
It didn’t take long for that union to crash. The collapse of his marriage rang the first alarm that man shall not live by bread alone. It was becoming clear that his lifestyle as a bachelor won’t cut it if he wants to be a responsible family man like his dad before him. Some things must be ditched.
Okoro decided to do real business. He will ship goods back home to Nigeria and sell them for profit. The business progressed and soon enough he was introduced to a beautiful working-class lady in Lagos. Their relationship blossomed and was enough to pull him back home for good or so he thought, after all, he already has a growing business.
Our man flew back home, had an elaborate wedding and started building a family with a child coming the following year. However, as the years flew by, the economy continued on a downward slope. Once again the thought of relocation resurfaced and having discussed this with his wife they agreed that being an American citizen, she will move first with their kid and he will join them later.
She moved and filed the necessary papers for him. After a couple of visits to the embassy, the visa officer invited Okoro into the inner room for further discussion. As he was led through a hallway, his heartbeat felt like an Uber driver ploughing around a parking lot in an endless search for a free space. He didn’t know what to expect but something didn’t feel right.
In a small room with scanty furniture Okoro sat with palms on knees. He just didn’t feel comfortable. The months that passed since his family left suddenly paled in comparison to the infinite seconds that ticked by. His confidence was at the nadir since his embassy sojourn as the young Afrasian officer started the conversation.
“Your application has been approved”, he said pointedly.
“Thank God!” the exclamation escaped Okoro’s breath before he could hold back.
“But… there is a caveat. You must prove your genuine identity before the visa will be granted”, said the visa officer in a flat tone to his chagrin.
Our man was perplexed. He didn’t seem to understand what that meant. He had supplied all the required documents to prove his eligibility.
Hesitantly he stuttered, “Sir, but sir please can you explain….”
The visa officer cut him short.
“Mr Kojo Abotsi”
With a sardonic smile, the visa officer said, “Our investigation revealed that you have multiple identities. You have to prove that you are either Okoro Uzondu, Kojo Abotsi or any of the other aliases you took up. Consider yourself lucky to have been accorded this privilege. I see you have a young family that needs you. It is now up to you to convince us that you also need them. Have a good day”
Those stark words will remain vivid in Okoro’s memory for the rest of his life. He didn’t know how he left the embassy. The drive back home to Lekki also didn’t register in his mind. All he could remember was waking up in the evening to see several missed calls from his Missus. When he called back, it was well worth it as the soothing words of encouragement from her reignited his hope that it will just be a matter of time. His visa is only being delayed not denied. Thus the wearisome journey to prove that he is Okoro Uzondu began.
Firstly, he will travel to Aba to gather the necessary documents. And each was to be verified by a notary public approved by the Embassy. Luckily his birth cert, baptismal cert and FSLC were all in his mother’s possession. The old lady had carefully filed all the original documents for each of her children. Okoro had them notarized and sent to the embassy.
After 2 tortuous months, he got a reply. They needed notarized originals of his WASC and degree certificates too. He was also requested to get reference letters from his teachers attesting to his good character. In addition, he should include any other document that will support his proof of identity. He didn’t have his original WASC so he had submitted his secondary school testimonial, statement of result and a sworn affidavit. How the hell were all those inadequate? Another trip to Aba was inevitable.
On reaching Aba, Okoro was informed that the WAEC branch office moved to Umuahia ages ago. Good Lawd! Knowing the frustration that comes with public services in Nigeria he anticipated that his stay will be extended by God knows how long. The next day he was in Umuahia and was shocked to learn that WAEC had his records intact. After a small fee, a certified true copy of his WASC was handed to him. To fulfill all righteousness he also paid for a copy to be dispatched directly to the Embassy via courier.
He managed to get the addresses of his former teachers. One was retired to his nearby village in Ukwa West Local Government Area while the other, a gracious old lady still ran a nursery school in Umungasi. Both wrote in long-form confirming that he was an obedient and promising young lad. He also took pictures with them as advised by his friend in the US and gave them envelopes as tokens.
By the 3rd day, he was back in Lagos, got copies of his first degree and WASC notarized and then mailed the parcel of documents along with old pictures of school activities with classmates, siblings and friends. His sigh of relief was laced with “America here I come!”
But not so soon because another lengthy period of waiting followed. By now it was close to a year since his family left and he wound down his already struggling car lot in anticipation of leaving. His flat would echo if you whisper as he sold off the non-essential properties. He barely managed to pay his monthly bills and they were legion in his estate. Energy, security, water, sanitation etc and despite the annual service charge all the bills equally came with an extra charge in one form or the other. The weekly grocery shopping was now shared with a friend whom he accommodates. Even his Corolla has been sold and the deposit spent. The next and final payment will be due in weeks and then he will be left with no mobility. In Lagos?? That’s unthinkable!
Calm down, your thoughts are running wild again, your visa will be out in no time he told himself. It wasn’t to be. This time he waited for over 3 months. By the time he got the mail inviting him to a panel interview, Okoro had no car and his generator had been sold. He managed a small MTN Inverter that couldn’t power the only TV in the house let alone the airconditioner. Fortunately, the estate had at least 12–16hrs of daily supply.
The 5-man panel he faced further scrutinised him to confirm that his answers tallied with the documents he supplied. It was a session that lasted for less than half an hour and as he sat in the back seat of the Uber on his way home he was confident that he had answered every question correctly. And indeed he had, for less than a week later he got a mail that his last hurdle would be applying for a waiver from Washington.
“Waiver kwa? Ndia abiakwa again!”
Well, since he can’t quit having come this far, Okoro informed his wife and she applied for a waiver as instructed. Days turned to weeks and then to months. It’s been over a year and a half of waiting. The tricycle business he invested in after selling his car yielded more police station visits than profits. His rent renewal was fast approaching and the thought of moving in with a friend was numbing. He would rather move back to his family home in Aba than face the embarrassment. Okoro was running out of options in Lagos.
On the fateful Friday, he was in the bar with his homies as usual. His guy visited from London and a long night out that should be action-packed was only beginning. They had just pointed at the fish to be killed and were settling into their table when his wife’s ringtone buzzed.
“Honey, what’s up?”
“This man! I knew it, I knew you will be in a bar that’s why you haven’t seen my message”
“Babe, what do you want me to do since America decided to keep you away from me?”
“Nwokem, check your message jor, I just closed and it’s been a long day. Love you, talk to you when I get home”
This woman and drama he muttered to himself as he checked the chat, “THE WAIVER HAS BEEN APPROVED, WHEN ARE WE SEEING YOU MR KOJO?”
Okoro didn’t know whether to shout, scream, laugh or cry. But he did what you would have done. He thanked God and immediately called back his wife. Her joyful scream from the other end of the line was audible in the noisy bar. Finally, the wait is over. Okoro has convinced the Americans that he needs his family as much as they need him.
Lessons: When you lack clarity of purpose you will likely be influenced by others. Keep it real. Always be truthful to yourself and honest in your dealings with others.
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